50 years ago I was in a quandary. I’d just graduated from high school and was in two minds about my future. I’d had a worse-than-useless interview with the careers advisory team at the college. Short of tradesman they’d suggested becoming a Gas Fitter which seemed at odds with my qualifications in Economics and Law. They’d obviously not seen my pathetic efforts at metalwork or home economics either. A career using my hands was not on my agenda.
Back then there were fewer universities, higher barriers to entry and a ‘career in the city’ wasn’t dependent on having a degree as a passport to entry. A gap year was something people from public schools did and I’d worked at weekends and during school holidays so understood what getting up to go to work felt like.
My father was a capable senior banker based in Bishopsgate dealing in international trade and, though we were of different temperaments, I was intrigued by his stories around “Bills of Lading” and “Letters of Credit“. So, I chose the City and an entry-level role (in Payments) at Lloyds & Bolsa International Bank in Queen Victoria Street.
A declaration at 50 not out!
England are currently taking on Australia (The Aussies) in a cricket series known as playing for the Ashes:
Already there has been a bit of controversy about an early declaration. As I think about my future declaration, I thought it an opportune time, some 50 years on since I started work, to look back at some of the experiences that have shaped my working life (and that of the great people I’ve worked alongside and for).
Over the coming months, I will be approaching some of the people I’ve worked with across 30+ countries as a professional and working on a pro bono basis inviting them to contribute to this valedictory by answering two questions:
- Can you think of an incident/event or project/piece of work we were both involved in that sticks in your mind; and
- If you were to, sum up in a word, phrase, anecdote, or piece of advice, you took away from working together, what would that be?
These reflections don’t have to be earth shattering, big or even international. They might be amusing as well as insightful. Here’s an anecdote from me:
Dress to impress
I remember one occasion in Riyadh when, as a fledgling young banker, I was about to have dinner at an Ambassador’s residence. My then boss, Ford Fraker (later to become the US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia), who was accompanying me to the dinner, suggested as a mark of respect that I buttoned up my jacket before being presented to the Ambassador.
It was my first experience of a formal dinner and the way Ford shared the experience stayed with me. He explained the importance of personal presentation in getting attention. And some decades later, while giving a keynote in Colombia, I deliberately changed my appearance and dressed down (in slacks and a jumper) to stand out from the suited crowd!
Very often it’s the little things, the rituals, the noticings that are important. Hopefully, this will surface a number of practical learnings that others might adopt or avoid! I’m looking to share half a dozen stories and observations before the year is over.
If having read this you feel moved to contribute I would be delighted to include your thoughts. Comment below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stop Press (July 1st)
Here’s a few of those who’ve already contributed – check out their comments below
Stop Press II (August 1st)
The willingness of former clients and colleagues to participate has been humbling. Here’s another batch.
And finally (September 3rd)
Well I never expected to get input from some many wonderful people and I’m delighted to report I’ve crossed the 50 mark concurrent with the 50th Anniversary of the day I started work (3rd September 1973). It’s been a truly humbling experience and as James Macfarlane says
Paul is simply “clearing the decks” in preparation for the enduring journey together to continue. I asked Paul if I could be his 50th Footnote in his journey. To prepare us all for the adventures to come.
What that journey looks like is open to suggestion. Many of the contributors have acknowledged the rich learning content that has been generated. Over the next few weeks I will be reaching out to a number of people to get their thoughts on how I might pass on my observations, tips and insights. Watch this space!